Lapis Dial 3633 Patek Philippe Gondolo
We tend to think of Patek Philippe as the sovereign monarch of timeless, elegant designs. Their image is monolithic, imposing, and changing only at a crawl. Well, no; at least, not entirely. People say the King Midas is divisive, but it doesn’t even come close as polarizing as the 3633. It could be described equally as a corrugated shed you’d find on the corner of a failing British estate in the 70s or a case ribbed for your pleasure. As an object of design, it is unapologetically brutalist. As a watch, it is the ultimate fix for the sort of collector who likes to push the limits of what can be defined as beautiful.
No one ever believed the King Midas would have its day again either. But hardstone dials from the 70s are back, Day-Dates or otherwise. This 3633 and latter 3733 were available in onyx or this slightly less seen lapis. Experimental design is back, integrated is still a fascination. Most are seen on leather, the matched bracelet was available as an option at the time but for a considerable premium. And look out Cartier, it even sports a cabochon crown. To put it bluntly, this was for a few decades considered an ugly duckling. But people seem to love air quote ‘ugly watches’ as of late. People are taking style tips from Lil Uzi Vert these days so perhaps I’m simply out of touch.
The fact is, we buy watches not to tell the time but express various facets of personality. Some kid themselves and believe that their observatory chronometers tell people they only care about precision. In fact, they tell others you’re a closeted engineer. No, no matter what is on your wrist, an MB&F spaceship, 2526 Calatrava, SPB, or corrugated shed, you’re saying something. The trouble is, many watches today say very little. There’s no daring in the design, and by extension no statement except that one is of means. You’re shouting to the world ‘I am a luxury consumer’, and that’s rather dull. A 3633 is the opposite end, it dares so bravely that it might say you’re an idiot. It might say you dream of Gottfried Böhm or Joseph Kosuth. It might say you listen to Genesis. You’re probably a watch nerd dad or very elegant monegasque lady. Either way, it will inspire curiosity. And is the purpose of art not to evoke?
This example has a full case with light to moderate and even surface wear. The are hairlines and light dents, but no significant bashes. It comes with the bracelet that most don’t which is a huge value add on the secondary market. Most of these would trade hands around 15-20K at auction, where 10 years ago the were just 6K. But it’s a different world now and these have seen a modest uptick relative to the Midas or Genta’s own brand. The upside of polarizing design is not outrageous values. It comes from a well-regarded Thai retailer.